An anthropologist tells a story

Of how he proposed a game

To children in an African village;

The game was played like this:


He places a fruit basket underneath a tree,

Then tells the children the first to reach it

Will be classed as the winner and can have it all,

But as soon as he calls out “Run!”


The children look at each other, then all grasp

Each other’s hands and run forward

All together, and then they all run back with the basket

And then they all sit down to enjoy it.


When the anthropologist asked them

Why they’d run like that, in unison,

Instead of their letting a winner take all

And have all the fruit for himself,


They’d said, “Ubuntu” “What’s Ubuntu?”

The anthropologist asked, bemused.

“How can one of us be happy,” they’d reply,

“If all the others are sad?”


Ubuntu’s an African philosophy

And the word Ubuntu translates:

“I am what I am because of who we all are.”

Or, being selfish makes no sense.


But its spirit’s forgotten if people are programmed

By money and competitive tyranny

To believe that the world is more efficiently run

By opulent psychopaths using violence.


Arms are exported to Africa to allow corporate power

To elbow its rivals for resources to one side:

Rivals for oil; for diamonds; for gold and for coltan,

But none of them can be as good for you as fruit.


Heathcote Williams



By Heathcote Williams

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9 Responses to “Ubuntu”

  1. Elena Caldera says:

    I love love love love this :)!!! hi Heth! kiss E

  2. Roddy McDevitt says:

    lovely story…

  3. Claire says:

    Decided to re-publish this poem from November 2012 (Heathcote’s birthday, as it happened) as to me it captures much of the essence of what he stood for. It’s one of my favourite poems of his, and bearing in mind we published one poem per week on IT over the last five years there’s a lot to choose from, aside from all his other works. Being so prolific never stunted the quality of his output. This poem captures the intentions of the Heathcote I knew, a deeply caring man who cast his net wide as mentor and teacher, using his skills as a wordsmith to affect our holistic view on how to care for each other and the planet on both a local and world scale. If we were to adhere to the message of this poem, many of the world’s problems would disappear, something that seemed to lie at the heart of what Heathcote was all about and what he strove for. Ubuntu! With thanks and love xx

  4. Heidi Stephenson says:

    Beautiful indeed! Good medicine for troubled times. Ubuntu!

  5. Dafydd ap Pedr says:

    “How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”
    Wise man Heathcote.

  6. Jez says:


  7. Peter Wadds JEFFERY OAM says:

    What a delight to read. I would love to think that with effort I could take this on board.

  8. Many and wondrous
    are the gifts that love can bring,
    priceless wisdom’s love.

  9. jeff cloves says:

    what a poem and what an extraordinarily beautiful photo
    my mum told me
    fruit was good for me
    she and Heathcote
    were right
    and most people I know
    and all those I like
    are right
    and right
    is better than

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